The Fix [Open]

Between Marn and Shim, along the Ofriyu Mar river, is a stretch of dense woodland known as the Virdara Woods.
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Daq Bekkar
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The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Tue Jan 22, 2008 6:47 am

Daq was awakened by a boot prodding at his left side.

"Come on, guy. You've got work to do," said his employer, a tall, feral looking man in his late forties. Daq stared at him groggily before sitting up. His back was sore from sleeping with nothing but his bunched up coat as a mattress.

"I don't see why you had to drag me all the way out here," Daq groaned.

"This is where shit's goin' down. Can't have it anywhere near the city--guards keep a tight lid on all of this kinda stuff.. that is.. unless you wanna grease the wheels of justice if you know what I mean. But the margin's too thin for that already.. never know how many're gonna show up, and the price of this," he kicked a small crate. "It's all over the place. Supply and demand. Get the drift? Well then get up already."

"No one's gonna be able to find their way out here.. much less the entrance to this place."

"You'd be surprised. Some people just have a nose for this sort of thing. Besides, I've hosted a few out here before. It's the perfect spot. But don't worry about it.. leave the number-crunching to me. Regardless of how the shit flies, you'll get your cut at the end of the week, and yer outta here."

Daq nodded.

"So let's get to cookin', pal. What's ya name again, if y'don't mind me askin'. Some people do."

"Da--" he started, before he realized the entire reason he was preparing drugs for some weird party in a cave in the middle of the woods was because he needed low-profile work... because someone would be out looking for him. He blushed, overcome by the pressure of coming up with a name for himself.

"Daa.... Dap.. Dapple," he stuttered.

"Your name's Dapple?" the man said, kneeling down to look Daq in the eye.

"Er. Yeah.. Mother was an herbalist.. so.. uhh. Crimson-dappled Marshblade... Dapple."

"Huh. She coulda gone with Crim, ya know? Something more.. Manly."

Daq turned a deeper shade of red. "Believe me, I know."

"Alright, Dapple--Mind if I call ya just 'Dap' for short?

Daq nodded. Dap was mercifully close to his real name.

"You'll call me Nero. The rest of the crew's been with me awhile, so they'll know who you mean if yer askin'.

"The recipes are packed in the crate. Make bulk of those. I'll give ya some others later on--the special orders."

Nero stood up and stretched to his full, lanky height. Strolling around, he gestured at the burnt-out fire from the night before.

"Make a new fire there.. I want you to save the oil tonight's special orders."

He pointed to a second, larger crate. "Chemist stuff's in there. You got until dusk, and since you got kinda a late start on the mornin', that's just five hours. Get crackin'."

He strolled off, lighting a smoke, to go see to the rest of the crew, most of whom had already gone inside the cave to set up.

Daq brushed off his coat and, somewhat painfully, stood to put it on, buttoning it to stave off the damp cold of the river air. He had a long hunt for dry firewood to work out the kinks in his back, and by the time he had the fire going again, he felt a bit more collected, though still quite miserable.

He sorted through the various supplies, and set up a tripod over the flames to cook with. With tongs, he placed a wire mesh over the tripod and set the twelve crucibles on it to begin heating. Four larger flasks he labelled with a grease pen to bear the names of the various drugs that would soon occupy them.

Daq measured out the various ratios of salts and crusts and saps that the recipes prescribed and scraped them into the crucibles to burn. For some reason, he felt compelled to wear his goggles. Unfortunately, he didn't think to wear a mask. Just barely after pouring out the contents of the last crucible into the last flask and sealing it up, he collapsed to the ground, passed out.

He awoke shivering in the misty dark, disoriented and somewhat numb-feeling. He looked around. Nothing. No one. Everything had been packed up, he was alone in an empty clearing.

"Nero?" he yelled. "NERO!!!!"

"Hey, hey, big guy," said a voice from behind him. "Don't scare the fish."

He turned to see Nero, standing there with a torch in hand.

"Some strong shit you made," he said, walking over to Daq. "Had to take a taste myself after I saw what a number it did on ya."

He tapped his foot impatiently. "Well? Come on then. Wouldn't want ya to turn into a icicle. Who'd fix the special orders?"

He led the way to the cave's narrow entrance. Only as they were just upon it could Daq hear the sounds escaping. Nero turned sideways to slip in, and Daq followed his lead.

Inside, it was a totally different story. The cave opened up quickly into a large room, which had been fitted with lanterns, a few low tables surrounded by pillows, carpets, and hanging silk drapery. It was crowded. Feeling too strange to count, Daq estimated upwards of forty or fifty people.

"Damn," he said. He had to shout to make himself over the sound of the crowd, which was amplified by the echoes off of the cavern's walls. "Some party."

"Should've seen the last one!" Nero shouted back. He led Daq to a wooden counter. A gas burner had already been set up on it and the smaller jars of the more expensive drugs from the crate were arranged next to it, along with leather gloves, tongs and a few crucibles.

"This is your station!" Nero shouted in Daq's ear. He pressed some papers into Daq's hand. "And these are the recipes!"

A grave, tattooed man strolled over and rapped on the counter.

"And it looks like you got your first customer! Get to it!"

"Gnaara," the man said, too quietly for Daq to understand. Daq shouted for him to repeat himself, but Nero intervened.

"He asked for Gnaara!" he shouted in Daq's ear. "Bottom right of the page! Move your ass!"

He began to move away to tend to something else, but then leaned back to shout something else. "Make it good! This guy's a V.I.P.! At least for tonight--if you get me!"

Daq scooped out a spatula-full of a blue, rough substance, and just a bit of a red fine powder and dumped them in a crucible. He put on the gloves, picked up the crucible with the tongs, and held it over the burner's narrow flame.
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Pagusel » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:55 pm

A darkly hooded figure stood just inside the lively room, a step past the narrow entryway. The figure hadn't made a noticeable entrance. One couldn't be sure of when this individual had arrived, except that it must have been after oneself, or one would have run into it, standing there in the entry like so. To enter the room, one had to twist through the uncomfortable crevice, which at least drew the slightest bit of attention to a new arrival. But this individual hadn't made any such spectacle at all.

The figure was covered from crown to thigh by a hooded cape of hide. The black, matted fur seemed to devour what dim lamp light fell upon it. Long, stringy locks of fur dangled from the hood into the wearer's face.

The wearer reared its head in a slow arc to take in the room. It stopped when it faced Daq's station. It shook its head briskly to throw off the sparse curtain of fur obscuring its line of sight. The wearer appeared to be a tawny-skinned woman.

Slender fingertips peeked out at the loose neckline of the cape and tapped thin lips in a thoughtful gesture as Daq busied himself with the order of Gnaara. The cape appeared to have no sleeves or other openings for the arms; even the front from neck to hem was laced shut. The woman lifted her hand up higher to brush one final stray lock of fur from her face, then dropped her hand back inside the heavy cape.

She proceeded forward to Daq's station in a path that hugged the cave wall. Her steps were small and even, her legs bare from the middle of her thigh, where the cape ended, to the sandals of cracked, shiny leather strapped to her feet. Wiry white tattoos encircling her thighs peeked out with every other step.

The woman stopped several paces from Daq's station and watched him again in repose. She raised both hands through the collar of her cape and nudged back the hood a few inches to better reveal her face. In a few long strides, she closed the distance to Daq's stand.

"Hello," she said after spending several moments looking along the length of her nose at his situation. Her voice was level and husky; her eyes were tinged red along the rims. "I would like to ask about your wares."

This woman gazed at Daq expressionless, her thin lips resting in a line, her eyes half-lidded and drowsy.

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:01 am

As woozy as Daq had felt before, he now thought he was truly going to faint. An ominous figure, swathed in black furs had entered to reveal itself to be a woman. A stunning woman with smooth, bare thighs, delicate hands, and a luxuriously long, aristocratic face. The nonchalance of her heavy-lidded, thin-lipped expression made the blood rush to his cheeks. He was dizzy. He could hear only her full, elegant voice in his ears. He could only feel the frantic pounding of his heart. For once, emotion had overpowered every last bit of science and skepticism that usually had such a firm grip on his brain. He thought he was in love.. some part of him did at least--a part that, since he had awoken that night, seemed to have sway over all the others.

"My.. my.. whu.." he cleared his throat and rubbed his hands vigorously over his numb face. "My wares?"

Daq tried to meet her gaze, but his head felt so heavy. He cast his eyes down to stare at the elegant white patterns on her shapely legs.

"A-anything you want. Anything. I'll make it for you. Please!" he stammered. He focused hard to keep his words from slurring.

"Just ask me," he mumbled, head down. It was perhaps too quiet for her to hear. "Anything at all."

He stood there, dumbly, until the crucible in front of him began to fizz, spitting out a black, tarry gunk.

"Oh! Shit!" he exclaimed. He remembered Pagusel and winced. "Oh.. shit.. I mean.. sorry. It's nothing, just..."

He busied himself with the crucible, moving it out of the flames and pouring its contents onto the counter. With gloves, he rolled the black pitch into a ball, perhaps the size of an eyeball. He finished just in time. The tattooed man returned to pick it up seconds after he had taken off the gloves.

"Careful.." Daq cautioned, forgetting the loudness of the room. "It's..."

The man skewered it with a needle. A think black smoke rose from it. He inhaled deeply and walked away without a word of thanks.

Daq's thoughts returned to the woman who had appeared so suddenly, like a ray of light in the darkness.

"Sorry.. I.." he said, still looking at her feet. "Did you want something?"
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Kutlin » Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:14 pm

As he walked in through the crowded part, he found the man he was looking for. He seemed slightly above average height but only an inch or so taller than he was. He showed signs of some wear of age, crows' feet in the corners of his eyes, deep lines around his mouth. He had a stubbly face and gray hair. He had faint blue eyes and wore a long worn out leather overcoat.

A normal person might not have been able to take in every small detail, but that was the benefit of his training. He trained his mind to capture and retain almost everything when it came to finding people, and picking up on the smallest traits, features and quirks. With concentration and planning came success, and with success came payment.

He pushed his over active mind to the side for right now, he was here to talk to this man, This Daq. Business was the main priority, but as he looked around at the other people at the party he noticed that everyone else was obviously here for pleasure.
He approached the man, this Daq, was speaking to a woman trying to mix or make her something. The woman was quite attractive, but Daq seemed to be infatuated by her.
His pores almost dripped with sweat, he was shaking and he was stuttering.

There were two things that normally made a man feel like that, and Kutlin didn't presume that Daq was anywhere scared of this woman. He didn't want to intrude upon another's conversation, but again, he was here for business.

"Pardon me sir, I do not mean to interrupt, but what is your name? I was told of a man who was a true genius when it came to...well let's just call it "the mix." He chuckled, seeing the relation between "the mix" he referred to and the name of this...establishment which was 'The Fix'. "When you have a moment kind sir, and you have finished serving the lady, could I speak to you...alone?"

Kutlin understood the fact that this man was undoubtedly at work, but if he could catch him at his station, Kutlin could appear to be just another customer to any of the "Fix'ers"

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:07 am

Daq was too distracted at first to notice the newcomer. For a brief second of blind hope, he thought that it was the enchanting woman who had asked him.

"I'm Daq Bekkar!" he blurted out. "Alchemist extraordinaire!"

The last bit was quite the exaggeration, and he knew it. But there was no helping it; what was said was said. And it was then, as he was lamenting opening his mouth and making a bit of an ass out of himself, that he realized it was not the girl who had asked at all, but just another junkie.

"Oh," he said, collecting himself. "What do you want?"

He didn't want to leave his post.. it meant leaving the woman. He had no desire to go anywhere without her.. ever again. Fortunately, he remembered his employer's instructions--not to leave his post.

"You'll have to tell me here," he said. "I'm working here. I can't just get up and leave whenever I please."

His eyes caught on the black fur of the woman's coat. "Err.. I mean.. Unless I am on break."

Then remembering the junkie... "But uhh.. That's... That's not for awhile now. Anyway..."

Even in its numbed state, Daq could feel his face flush. He had always fancied himself a decent liar. That is, up until today, when it actually came down to lying.
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Pagusel » Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:56 pm

Pagusel rolled her shoulders back once, shifting the heavy cape. Her hands peeked out at the hem of the cape. Her fingers flexed upwards, the hem slid to her wrists. She seemed dangerously close to making an indecent display when she raised her hands up to shift the lower edge of the cape to the crooks of her elbows--but she was, in fact, wearing a pair of high-waisted suede short-pants underneath.

She pressed her slender fingers into a steeple and touched them to her lips. Her soft brow was pulled into a tight furrow. Brown eyes adopted a mournful cast and rolled sidelong to catch Kutlin in their periphery. Her gaze rolled back to Daq, her expression to him just as melancholy. She appeared profoundly uncomfortable, yet subdued.

After the man behind her in line tried to take Daq's attention, Pagusel perked up momentarily at hearing the alchemist confirm his name. The other man had stated his case and was waiting after interrupting at first, and it was her turn again with the alchemist.

"I am not comfortable here," said Pagusel slowly, as if having to memorize each syllable as she said it. She squinted down at her hands, rethinking her wording. The alchemist seemed to be a little bit overeager, and she'd just as soon not have him alone. "But I don't have to leave here," she added in the same slow speech.

Pagusel glanced up at the ceiling of the cave. Daq would easily recognize by the reverie in which she was then momentarily lost that she was undoubtedly high on some simple sedative. This time, she spoke more quickly, as if having settled her words in advance. "If you could be so kind as to provide me with a small dose of a simple narcotic or hallucinogen, I will avail myself of its comforts and be in a better mind to speak business with you, at your leisure. Please allow me to defer payment to such a time." At that, she planted her gaze in direct eye contact with him before letting her gaze slide slowly down to the table at which he worked.

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sat Jan 26, 2008 3:58 am

Daq followed the hem of her cape as it slowly lifted upwards. Unfortunately, the broadening expanse of skin stopped at a pair of shorts. Daq continued to stare until he felt that the woman had begun to stare back. He blushed and looked up with an awkward smile.

It was somewhat exotic how she held her fingers to her mouth, tips pressed against each other. Her slow words made her seem even more foreign. Daq wondered where she might have come from... Some land to the far east.. with a cold, harsh sun that had browned her skin and taught her the necessity of killing bears for their dark, warm furs.

Daq sighed. He wished that she could feel comfortable here, if only because she was with him. Daq rubbed his numb face again. He was coming on too strong, but he couldn't help himself.

"Yes! Yes! Narcotics! Okay! O--oookay!" he shouted, rubbing his hands together in excitement and then flexing his fingers. "Alright! Okay!"

He scooped a bit of a green crystalline substance into a crucible and mashed it with the underside of his spatula. He then mixed in a pinch of red powder and a pinch of yellow and set it on the burner.

"Won't be too long now," Daq said. He sighed, coming down from his earlier nervousness.

"And what can I get you..?" he asked, pointing at the junkie who had tried to interrupt his conversation with the beautiful stranger.
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Kutlin » Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:11 am

"To be honest, friend, I'm looking for a few sedatives. Liquid coating, not pills. I could use some liquid coating sedative, also if I could trouble you for some inhalents. They also need to be of sedation quality. I promise friend, I would make it worth your while." From his overcoat he produced a small, yet full bag. He dropped it on Daq's workstation with a few clinks.

"I do have one request though, we must do this in private. I have certain requirements of the sedatives, and those must be kept secret. Ofcourse, since I am coming to you now, you will know. I have heard you are the best, and I trust in the fact that you will keep the recipes secret. I would like to hire you as my personal alchemist. You can ofcourse, keep your current position here as well, but I would like to ever so often call upon you. I guarantee you", he looked towards the bag again and patted it, clinking it once more, "that this will seem as a rather small payment for my works once I know I can trust you."

He turned towards the woman now. "I do so apolgize for interrupting your conversation, I am sure that this will not take long and that the sir will return soon, and will make you whatever your heart desires." He turned towards Daq as he finished his sentence. He gave him a smile, a nod towards the beautiful woman, and finished with a wink.

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Pagusel » Thu Jan 31, 2008 11:53 pm

Pagusel hadn't left the alchemist's station when Kutlin began to speak. She turned her head to cast soulful eyes at the customer's feet. She frowned thoughtfully as he gave Daq his spiel and nodded absently each time the word "sedative" came up.

She swung her gaze back to the crucible where Daq's drug for her burned. Kutlin addressed her, and she didn't turn to him, but acknowledged his words with the expression of concern on her face. She gave Daq a quizzical look.

A shifting of her shoulders shimmied the cape back down to cover her thighs again. The lump under the front of the cape would indicate she was folding her arms over her chest. "I am afraid you do not fully grasp the concept of the queue," she murmured with her chin to her chest, as if pointing her words anywhere except directly forward constituted a conversation with the man behind her.

"You are the next customer in line, but I have put myself first in the other queue--to speak private business with Mister Bekkar. You will have to wait until I have had my chance to discuss business before you pull him away--and he has already stated plainly that he cannot leave his post until the prescribed time." Pagusel lifted her gaze beneath a flat line of charcoally lashes to look directly at Daq before her. "I would not want to do business with someone who does not respect the universal protocol of the queue."

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Sat Feb 02, 2008 5:26 am

Daq struggled to contain his laughter. He didn't want to embarrass himself in front of the woman, and, more importantly, he didn't want her to feel embarrassed. Of course there was logic to her argument, but there was something about the stiltedness of her language.. the "universal protocol of the queue".. that impinged on the absurd. Of course, her deliberate motions and suggestive poses lent all of the gravity and seriousness in the world to her words for him. She could have talked of cutting off his arm, and Daq would have probably nodded vigorously in affirmation.

His heart pounded as she so aloofly spurned the stranger behind her, and the blood rushed in his ears at her words, "private business." The word 'private,' in particular, enticed him with images of very intimate.. conversation. He hadn't felt like this in a long time.

The deeply-buried parts of his mind--the detached, cynical, and, above all, scientific parts--tried to inform him that it was the drugs doing their work, but the message got lost somewhere along the way. As far as he could tell, he had met the next love of his life. He mused on the thought of this for what seemed like an eternity (though under other circumstances his now-defunct internal clock might have told him it had been minutes at most) before it hit him. She'd said his name. He loved the way her husky voice brought fresh intonation to its trochaic, clipped sound that he had long since taken for granted.

"Uh.. yeah," he replied. "Yeah. The universal protocol. Important.. uhh.. Important.. err.. protocol. Real important. Got to keep to it, or else people.. people won't want.. to do business."

Inwardly, he grimaced. Outwardly, he was a stone wall (or so he thought).

"So, Missssss...." he let his words trail off. "Now that you uhh.. know my name.. how about--'

Fizzing from the crucible cut him off.

"Oh shit!" he exclaimed. He promptly clapped his hand over his mouth. It wouldn't do to cuss in front of a customer--a lady customer. "Shit," he said again, this time muffled into the palm of his hand. The crucible fizzed again. Its hot contents boiled over into the flame and ignited into an incandescent green. This got his attention.

"Right. Right right," he muttered to himself. He poured the liquid from the crucible into a mold for it to set. "Just.. let this cool.. and we can get to business, Missssss..."

He let his words trail off again. Insistently.
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Kutlin » Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:50 am

If he was annoyed before, he was down right peturbed now.

"Look man, you and me, now! I'm tired of you trying to just push me around, just so you can sit here and stammer on your words because of a pretty face. Your going to make me my chemicals, and I'm going to pay you, then I'm going to leave. You can come back here and flirt afterwards."

He was done being toyed with. He looked back to the woman, annoyed with her as well. Okay, so maybe it wasn't her fault for being pretty and distracting, but if she was really adamant about getting Daq alone, she could have been a little more aggressive in doing it.

"As for you ma'am and your queue? Screw the queue. Hey look *he chuckled* I made a funny."

He walked to the side of Daq, behind his station and placed his hand on Daq's left shoulder.

"I'm a busy man Mr. Daq, as I'm sure you are. Now."

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Pagusel » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:29 am

Pagusel's face pulled inward in a vaguely sour expression as the man behind her made some comments about flirting. She eyed Daq with as much suspicion as she could muster through her drug-softened features; her state of mind did not warrant very much abstract calculation.

Each syllable of Kutlin's speech drifted over her face, reflected in subtle variance of expression as he enumerated his qualms. At one point, Pagusel's expression abruptly changed, as if the fluidity of the listening process had been interrupted by some disturbance. She looked profoundly puzzled.
. . . Screw the queue. Hey look *he chuckled* I made a funny.
"A funny," he had said, and this simply didn't parse for Pagusel. It was upsetting to the mind--where she expected a noun, she was given what was, in mental lexicon, an adjective. She paused before reacting, taking the moment to attempt to judge whether she had heard wrong. But no--she shook her head at the table upon realizing--this was no usage she knew or could make sense of.

Pagusel tipped her chin up and glanced in Kutlin's direction as he approached Daq. Before he could pull him aside, she expressed her concern. "I believe we have had a miscommunication, for you are speaking a dialect of this language with which I have no familiarity," she said low and quickly. Perhaps in this man's foreign, strange-tongued culture, they conceived of some protocol that allowed him to cut in line. Maybe it was because she was a woman, or because he had a certain complexion. Pagusel was no diplomat.

She turned her smoky gaze to Daq. "I assume you will explain to this man how to not offend, in the future. He does not appear to understand my meaning clearly." She turned and lifted her hands from the hem of her cape again to pull her hood over her brow. "At your leisure. I will not go far."

At that, Pagusel stepped into the crowd of patrons and, obscured for what should have been only a moment by the broad back of a large man, failed to reappear as expected.

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:58 am

Daq tried to follow the myriad expressions on the woman's face, but found them almost mystifying as she was to begin with. Eventually, she assumed a puzzled expression, although Daq was unsure why... the man had been quite simple and direct. Even somewhat colloquial. Was that why she thought he was using a foreign language?

As distracted as he was, Daq could easily pick up on the hostility in the stranger's voice. For the first time, the stranger truly caught his attention, and Daq noticed that he wasn't exactly one of the junkies he had been dealing with that night. For one thing, he was in much better shape, and he had a look of acuity about him that even the dazzling woman seemed to lack.
"I'm a busy man Mr. Daq, as I'm sure you are. Now."
The stranger had said, almost in his ear. The grip the man had on his shoulder was a little too firm to be just friendly.

So, reluctantly, Daq turned to him, sobering somewhat.

"What chemicals?" he asked.
...

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Kutlin » Tue Feb 12, 2008 4:12 am

Good, Kutlin thought, about damn time. He almost showed a hint of a smile.

"I'll make this short. The money will make this sweet. I'm glad I finally caught your attention. I need these distilled."
He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a small brown paper packet, inside were dryed leaves.
*Nockaroot, sleepvein and some countseeds. I need these distilled and mixed. The instructions are on the inside of the pack. They should come out being a thick mix that I can coat my blade with."
He reached back to the station and grabbed his money bag and pushed it into his hand.
"And there is your payment."
He disregarded the woman at the moment. She had become an obstacle in his plans, but she was a woman. Some obstacles can't be moved by force or by reason. Now though, the contract could proceed.

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Re: The Fix [Open]

Post by Daq Bekkar » Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:34 am

Daq sighed. He knew the recipe already. What did that nitwit take him for--an apprentice? He snatched the money bag angrily and hefted it. It was more than what he was going to get paid for working the rest of his shift, and the party seemed to have degenerated enough that no one would be asking for anything anyway.

"I'm familiar with the recipe you're asking for, and I'd be happy to prepare it, but the distiller here doesn't have enough theoretical plates to work with the Nockaroot."

Daq started to hand the packet and the money bag back to the stranger when he noticed the look of confusion on his face. He sighed again. All of the exasperating dealings with the man were a real buzz-kill. He had stopped sweating and begun to think normally. Instead of amped-up, he was just annoyed.

"Nockaroot has two main byproducts. One of them is a very painful irritant, and the other is the sedative that I assume you want," he began to explain, in as simple terms as a scientist like himself could manage. "Unfortunately, these two chemicals have very similar boiling points, so to separate them effectively, I need to boil and condense the seepage several times. If I don't, you'd have something that might knock somebody out eventually, but it would probably put them into a stinging rage for about ten minutes before the sedative starts to act. Which, if I understand the use of these chemicals correctly, completely defeats the purpose of using sedatives."

He held out the bag again, painfully aware of its weight.

"Listen, if I was back at my lab..."

That's when it hit him. This man was obviously making the contact sedatives to coat a weapon, which meant he could fight...

"Actually, what would you say to an adjustment of the terms...?" Daq asked, a hint of shrewdness creeping into his voice. He drew back the money bag. "If you agree to help me transport my alchemical equipment out of the city in addition to this payment, I can and will brew you your sedative coating."

Daq wondered if he ought to tell the man about the monster waiting for him back in town, but he opted not to. He needed his equipment almost as much as he needed his money, and he didn't want to scare him away.

But what about the girl? Would she wait for him? Would she come along? He looked down at the bench and saw that the crucible had cooled. He upended it and tapped it hard against the wood. A small blue crystal fell out. He wrapped it in a piece of brown paper under it and smashed it carefully.

Searching through the crowd, Daq couldn't find her again. He thought he had seen her step behind a man just a few seconds ago, but then he'd lost sight of her. He felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Was the money really worth pushing her away? The more sober parts of his brain told him that it was, but they were outnumbered and overruled by the tingly and excited ones.

"Miss?!" he asked into the crowd, trying to keep the shrillness out of his voice and restrain himself to a polite level. "Miss? You forgot this!"

He held up the drug he had wrapped in paper and continued to search the crowd.
...

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